I felt good. During the time I was out, I did a lot of cardio on a bike to get my wind back. So I felt good.
Can you play more than 28 minutes?
Yes, I can go more – all the way.
Are you back to your original playing weight?
Most of it is back, I'm still like five or six pounds underweight. I'm finally eating real food again, solid foods. I'm eating Mom and Dad's food: steak, potatoes, pasta, stuff to try to fatten me up.
How long were you on liquids and what could you eat at that point?
I'd say two weeks. I had some crackers, sodas, I had a bowl of Jell-O. Soup.
How tough was the time you were away?
Of course, it was very discouraging after sitting out last year and having to sit the games out this year. I got very discouraged during that time. At one point, I was just hoping and praying I'd at least be back by the ACC tournament. But I was very blessed to be able to come back at the time I came back.
How difficult was practice when you were coming back?
Like I said, I did a lot of cardio during that time. While the team was practicing, I would be riding the bike, little things like that. I didn't really go through too much, but the biggest thing was that my legs weren't there. It doesn't matter I was winded and tired, it's not doing anything for three-and-a-half or four weeks. My legs weren't there, that's the biggest thing.
You and Levi Watkins are close. How difficult was it to see him get injured again?
It was really tough. He's been working so hard. You can say that's not fair for a guy like him to have to go through that, but everybody has to go through something. And it happened his freshman year, [so] he knows what it takes to get back. We'll keep saying our prayers for him and hopefully he'll be back sooner than they're saying – four to six weeks -- because we do need him.
When did you first get the flu and what was the progression of injuries?
When we got back from the West Coast swing on the way to New York … First it was the flu, then they said I had colitis, then they said I had gout – well, a form of gout, not actually gout. I had swelling in some of my joints, and that was it.
But I'm better now and I'm looking to move forward.
What are you expecting from UNC?
For them to pressure the ball and try to get out in transition. I think those are the keys to our success over there: taking care of the ball, stopping them in transition, and of course, rebounding.
What do you remember about playing in the Dean Dome from your NIT game with Georgetown?
I think they let everybody in free, so it was a real packed crowd. It was a great atmosphere to play in.
A lot has happened to you since then.
Yes sir. It's been a challenge -- but I'm always looking for a challenge.
Who helped you make it through the frustrating times?
Just my family and my teammates and my friends, just telling me that everything is going to be OK and things happen for a reason. Coach Sendek and the coaching staff would call me periodically to check on me and see how I was doing, and that made me feel a whole lot better when I was down. I think that was the most important thing to me.
What does it mean to you to be back?
There's a lot of time left in the season, and we have a lot of games left to turn it around and we believe we can do it. It was tough sitting out, but now I'm back and I can help the team out any way possible that I can. So that's a good feeling, to be back out there. Sitting out, it was like I couldn't help them, but now I feel I can. Do you remember what you ate as your first real meal when you finally could eat solid food again?
I think my father fixed me some spaghetti and that was my first meal.
Your brother is a former player who went through a lot. What did he tell you in getting through this?
Just keep my head up and look for better days. Everybody goes through a struggle, and I guess this has been my struggle. Just being there for me; that's what brothers do.
What was your sickest moment?
I guess the first day when I woke up and I had the first gout attack, the swelling. I didn't know what was going on. I thought I rolled my ankle in my sleep or something. I guess that was the [sickest] moment for me.
How was your stamina after the Clemson game?
I feel I could have played more in the Clemson game and I feel I can play even more now. I've still been doing my cardio before and after practice, and I feel fine. I don't feel 100 percent, but I feel fine.
The most important was getting my legs back. I hadn't run for like three weeks and I had swelling, so I wasn't doing that much with my legs. That was the biggest thing for me in coming back, my legs were always sore and tight.
What does UNC want to do against you guys?
They want to get out in transition and run and score quickly. We have to take care of the ball on offense and take good shots, and that eliminates their transition opportunities, and I just think that that's what we need to do against them. The whole 40 minutes, try to eliminate their transition and just play our defense in the halfcourt set.
It must have seemed like a long time between baskets before you hit that three against Clemson?
That felt real good. I was smiling inside. I didn't show it on the court, but I had a big smile. That's what really got me going. It had been a while since I had scored a basket, and I was thinking about that too.
Did you ever feel like your sickness wouldn't go away?
No. I knew it would eventually go away and just kept faith.
What will it take to beat Carolina?
Like I said before, just stopping them in transition, making them guard our offense, taking good shots, not turning the ball over and rebounding. It sounds like a lot, but those are all things that we can do when we're playing well. That's what it's going to take.
Was there any point against Clemson when you thought, "I'm back"?
The practice before [the game], I felt like I was back. I was running and I didn't get tired, and then I knew that I was back. Coach gave me 28 minutes to prove that I was back, and I think I proved it.
There was one play where you made a steal and threw it over your shoulder to Hodge for a basket.
[Laughing] You can always find Julius on an outlet pass trying to get a bucket.
What are the assets you feel you bring to the team?
Quickness in transition, able to defend quicker guards, leadership, giving Engin a break from running the point guard all game, because he's a terrific shooter and he needs his opportunities on the wing to get his shot off. Create for him and other guys in transition.
Does your game affect Julius's game?
In some ways it does. Like I said, I'm just giving Engin a chance to get away from bringing the ball up the court, which is tiring because a lot of teams press us. It takes a lot of energy to bring it up the court sometimes, so I just give him a chance to rest.
Watching film, is it hard to find weaknesses with UNC?
Yes, it is. They're terrific at all five spots, but every team has their weaknesses and the coaching staff does a great job of pointing that out to us.
What are your thoughts on Raymond Felton?
He's feisty, he runs his team well. You've just got to keep him in front of you and stop him in transition.
Are you ready for 30-plus minutes against him?